People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different. In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all. Read on!
There couldn’t have been more hype for this third entry in the reinvention of the Bond franchise. Daniel Craig has made a clear stamp on the character (gruff, violent, prone to caustic wit) and with a slew of increasingly high profile directors and writers buoying the films, this third one seems to reaching for that cherished “Best Bond Ever” status. Great director, great Bond, and the possibility of a truly great villain in Javier Bardem’s Silva – this really could be something special.
Sam Mendes is what sold me on Skyfall. Daniel Craig is a great bond – all violence and sneer – and though Quantum of Solace isn’t exactly the follow-up the world wanted from the amazing reintroduction of Bond in Casino Royale, we (I), are primed for Bond getting elevated by a truly great director. Yet Mendes brings an odd issue to the Bond franchise: artistic credibility. Oh yes, Marc Foster is a good director, but he’s as much a high-end workhorse as the next guy, but Mendes, Mendes is true director with a creative sensibility and a refined aesthetic. What happens when you mesh that talent with the immovable structure of the Bond franchise? Good things it seems. Mendes brings his considerable creative weight to Skyfall and what we get is two-thirds of an amazing film and one-third of what the audience really wants – big dumb action. Strangely, Skyfall is almost another reintroduction of the character, as if the previous two films in this new regime of Bond didn’t live up to the narrative flow of the higher-ups and Skyfall is their trump card to reign the character back in to what it was before. It’s an impressively enjoyable film to watch. Daniel Craig continues to make a case for being the best Bond of all time, this time playing a broken Bond with physical ailments and a crippling bit of self-consciousness. Yet, this film would be nothing without the arrival of Javier Bardem’s Silva, M’s (Judi Dench) prior favorite agent who she gave up to save her own ass. He returns to wreak havoc on her life, and of course, her new favorite agent gets right in the middle of it. Silva is a modern evil, all swishy sexuality and tech-heavy plans, and when pushed against the bullish tradition of Craig’s Bond, you get some truly beautifully acted scenes. What makes Skyfall better than all that have come before it is Mendes deft hand at actually attempting to play with themes and visual allusions and the subtext of modern spying. This isn’t just Pierce Brosnan jumping out of a plane, or Roger Moore walking on the moon and all of us swooning, this is a melancholic take on a character that represents many of the things we’ve come to hate about the role of government in our lives. Mendes, and his very talented trio of writers, takes the leeway he’s been given and runs with it, crafting a film that pushes the franchise in to new directions while bringing it back on track with what we’ve known before. My biggest beef with the film is that Mendes might have wanted to do too much, and when he’s trying to create true relationships between characters, give long-form narrative arcs and spend forty-five minutes blowing things up, it creates a bit of bloat. The film grows a bit stale in it’s last half an hour, and though I never felt bored, I certainly felt restless. Mendes does what he’s tasked with though and brings grace and charm back to the Bond series without reinventing it. Instead, he delves in deep in to what came before and comes out on the other side with a pretty great picture.
You can try as hard as you want to get away from the Bond franchises root goals, but in the end you’ll always have big explosions and beautiful woman.